options employed, the multiple health specialists involved in treating each cancer patient, the ongoing medical monitoring required after treatment is complete, the important role of family caregivers, and the availability of clinical trials and experimental treatments. As potential reforms are proposed for the health care delivery system, it is important for policy makers to consider the needs of quality cancer care
To help address the challenges in meeting the public’s oncology health care needs, the National Cancer Policy Forum of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) convened the workshop Ensuring Quality Cancer Care through the Oncology Workforce: Sustaining Care in the 21st Century on October 20 and 21, 2008, in Washington, DC (see Appendix A for the agenda and Appendix B for a list of workshop speakers). The workshop covered issues relevant to the entire spectrum of cancer care, from prevention and diagnosis to treatment, monitoring, survivorship, and palliative care. This document presents a summary of the ideas presented at the workshop. The first section of this summary outlines the evidence for the current and expected workforce shortages in health care professions in general, as well as evidence specific to the oncology professions. As stated above, any improvements in the oncology workforce will require a well staffed overall health care workforce. It is impossible to completely separate oncology from other areas of health care. The second half of this summary focuses on the solutions to the workforce shortage proposed by the various speakers, including system-based solutions, such as policy initiatives, innovative team approaches to the care of patients, and greater use of electronic medical records. Also explored were providing more innovative education and training, offering more incentives to recruit and retain cancer care workers, and enabling professionals to return to the workforce after raising children or taking time off for other reasons. There was no effort to prioritize the proposed solutions, or make conclusions and recommendations.